Hello from hiatus! Hope you’re all staying healthy and hydrated. Fish and I miss you very much. But we’re also getting a lot of rest in, and taking very good care of ourselves. And we have an update for you!
Back in December, GQ reached out to me about doing a piece on climate change. Four months and a whole lot of reporting later, that piece is now feature package, taking up 8 pages of coveted space in the magazine. “The Razor’s Edge of a Warming World” is out today, online and on newsstands. I am so excited to share it with you.
“The Razor’s Edge of a Warming World” is not your typical doom-and-gloom climate magazine feature. Unlike most stories in this genre, it does not describe what might happen in a worst-case scenario where we do nothing to stop global warming. Instead, it examines the difference between two better-case scenarios: one where we take significant action to stabilize warming at 2 degrees, and another where we do everything humanly possible to stabilize warming at 1.5 degrees.
The comparison between 1.5C and 2C scenarios is the most urgent when it comes to climate policy currently being debated on the world stage. Yet in reporting this series, we quickly discovered that it’s among the least researched. Most peer-reviewed climate science focuses on what might happen in much more catastrophic scenarios–3C, 4C, and so on and so forth. One researcher we spoke to speculated this may be because most climate scientists don’t think governments will act quickly enough to stabilize warming at 1.5C.
But a 1.5C world is still technically possible–and for some populations, non-negotiable. So we worked with what we had. We used the IPCC’s special report on 1.5C versus 2C to start the process of choosing locations. After combing through that report, which examines broad impacts across large areas of the world, we spoke to climate scientists who study specific locations within those broad areas to identify the most high-risk places within them. To determine whether a location would be “saved” at 1.5C and “irredeemably lost” at 2C, we asked not only if the location would become physically uninhabitable, but whether it would become functionally unrecognizable to people who once lived there. “Saved” and “lost” are subjective, value-driven terms. They have no scientific definition.
This list is admittedly incomplete. It represents only a small sampling of places and people whose futures depend on a worldwide, herculean effort to rein in fossil fuels. It is, however, the first list of its kind (as far as I know). I hope it is not the last.
One important note: I want to let it be known how proud I am of GQ for running this story. A style magazine read by mostly rich, white dudes certainly did not need to expose their audience to a piece that explicitly blames the fossil fuel industry for the destruction of a livable planet. But by doing so, they’re bringing this truth to the group of people who need to hear it most—but who probably hear it the least. I imagine some of their readers will give them crap for it. I hope HEATED’s readers can balance that out for them with some love.
Finally, I want to give some special shout-outs. First goes out to Caitlin Looby, a co-author on the piece. A freelance journalist and former soil scientist, she wrote and reported the entries on the Miombo Woodlands and Napa Valley, and was an absolute pleasure to work with. Give her a follow on Twitter, will ya?
Also, special thanks to all the scientists and researchers who helped us with the piece — both quoted and unquoted. As you may know, print word counts can be pretty tight, so we couldn’t quote everyone we spoke with. But everyone was an incredible help — especially the unquoted Brenda Ekwurzel, Adam Markham, John Upton, Zeke Hausfather, Anton Vaks, Peter Girard, and Chris May.
Also special thanks to Fish, cleaner of the peanut butter jar. If you’re missing him while this newsletter is on hiatus, give him a follow on Instagram at @fish.hein.
Keep a look out in your inbox in the coming weeks for bonus reporting that didn’t make it into the GQ piece. Until then, drink water, eat a banana, do some push-ups. See you soon!